Time for annual trip and this time it was Cali aka California. A home for Hollywood.
California, KA-LI-FOUR-NI-YA, with a postal code abbreviation of CA, is one of the largest States in the USA.
I live in East Coast i.e., East side of USA. It takes 8 – 10 hours, just the flying time, from CT / Boston / NY to reach CA. This is my second visit to CA. First time, I covered Los Angeles in 2007.
Back2Basics: The USA has various time zones. East Coast is 3 hours ahead of West Coast. Going to West Coast had saved us some time but while coming back it evened out.
This time, it was a trip of 7 days where in first and last days were kept aside for flying. Total 5 full days on hand. One thing I did differently this time is planning on the go. The adventure was pick the places to see and then find accommodation close by, on the go. No more cookie-cutter package deal. What’s the benefit? Your almost get localite’s knowledge about the place by the end of the trip.
As soon as I have decided CA trip, I called few friends who lives or had lived in CA to understand accommodation challenges. Then started planning rest of the trip from there.
- Where you want to land? CA is a big State, remember!!!
- What you want to see?
- What is your budget?
- Understand CA map and Counties
My vacation theme:
- Famous tourist spots
- Fly to SFO
- Rent a car
- Find accommodation at the places of visit
- I don’t swim, so I always look for something adventurous or moving than sitting at one place whole day
- As I mentioned before, you can either go with a complete package tour so that you can cover whatever Travel Agents are offer. Or you can Plan on the go so that you have a freedom of what you want to see
- PriceLine-dot-com was the go-to site for flight booking and hotel booking in SFO. As usual, last minute booking. 🙂
- Always look for return flights from international / big airport(s) ; for example, there’s a difference flying from BDL to SFO VS Boston / NY to SFO
- It is important to learn local safety to zero-in the hotel locations especially in SFO city
- I have asked friends and read hotel reviews from TripAdvisor before finalizing the location to book the hotel
- If I understand correctly, some hotels don’t provide complimentary breakfast. While booking do check what hotel is offering
- Hotels-dot-com provides consolidated view of all hotels with ratings and prices
- Expedia-dot-com is for package deals. Try Flight + Hotel + Car, you will get amazing package deals. In addition do look their “things to do” section
- PriceLine-dot-com –> Express Deals, is another good option in case of last minute bookings
- For parking, try SpotHero app. I would say, it’s a mandatory app for all of us to look for various parking locations along with prices. Great collection of parking spots across the nation
- Rentalcars-dot-com is another great site for car rentals
- Your Visa card offers Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) on rental cars
- In addition, if you have auto insurance with Comprehensive and Collision coverages, your insurance company extends it to rental cars too
- This way, you don’t have to take CDW from rental car agency
- NOTE: Do confirm with your credit card and insurance agencies about rental car coverage. Don’t just go by what I say as your case may be different
Paper or Plastic:
- Always carry some cash on hand. In case your bank’s ATM is not close by, then partner ATM’s charge $4 service charge per transaction
Food – Local or Global:
- You get global food (all kinds of cuisines around)
- Don’t forget to eat at Fisherman’s Wharf
- SFO city was little colder, light warm wear would be perfect
- Lake Tahoe was hot / humid; comfortable wear would save you from sweating
- Sneakers, flip flops and sun screen are a must pack
Words of caution:
- Heard and saw that some blocks in SFO are not safe; pick your location wisely
- Start your day early and get back to the room early, if possible. Be safe
Hi-lights of the trip:
- Donner Lake, Truckee, CA
- Still waters make your senses calm. Donner Lake is small and beautiful in a very friendly Village
- You find old-fashioned restaurants and worth taking a walk along the lake
- Why I chose Truckee?
- If you want to visit Lake Tahoe, the closest places you can rent hotels are Tahoe City, Incline Village, South Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Carson City
- After doing some research, I zeroed-in Truckee as it is a perfect place to get to other locations easily. And I am glad I did it.
- Kings Beach, Squaw Valley, and Incline Village are near. In addition, Reno (Nevada) is within the driving distance
- Squaw Valley – this is where Winter Olympics happened in 1960
- Incline village shops reminds you of 1960s look
- Kings Beach, CA
- A sneak peak of Lake Tahoe
- You are not there yet, but yet you are J
- And boat-watching is a pleasure. You have various boats, canoes, kayaks, and standing kayaks. Oh my my, even the most talkative people get quieter here
- Mount Rose, NV
- The drive from Truckee to Virginia City thru Mount Rose was the best thing happened on that particular day. You can see some splendid scenic views
- Lake Tahoe’s aerial view (I mean, view from Vista Points) is something you want to capture in your cell phones or cameras. You become a kid, as you get close to Vista points (Vista Point – designated scenic view spot)
- Mountains, deserted roads, narrow roads, steep roads, and beautiful sceneries, are all yours throughout the drive
- Virginia City, Reno, NV
- Antiques are our past lives. Period!
- If you are going to Tahoe, don’t miss this place
- This is a dramatic place where entire village set up is historical. Park your car, and start walking. Every shop has “flashback” look and every piece they sell is an antique
- You can visit oldest churches and museums. Remember, Cow-boy’s era, yeah, you feel that heat in here. You can almost spend an entire day
- This was not in my original plan. I have added it in the last minute per Hotel Rep’s suggestion
- Lake Tahoe, CA
- Before I talk about the beauty of Lake Tahoe, let me talk about the steep roads. Honestly, I was very nervous while driving the steep road where either side has no railings. Don’t even think of getting distracted here. Quite a scary drive. I wonder, how bad the drive will be in peak Winters especially with snow around
- Lake Tahoe is shared by California and Nevada states. If you are CA side, you hit Tahoe City while driving to Lake Tahoe. It’s a good place to look around, and eat
- After the stressful drive, you hit Vista Point. The favorite place for shutterbugs to capture great nature. Parking is limited here, so good luck
- The next place is Vikingholm Castle. Again limited ticketed parking. If not, feel free to park on the side of the road properly. Little carelessness or leaving the car in no-parking zones will result in towing in seconds. Vikingholm Castle will take you close to the beach area. I was told, Vikings use to go to the mini-island in the center of Tahoe to drink tea daily. Weird are the way of rich people!
- To get to the beach area, you have to walk approx. 2 miles one way. On a hot day, mind you, it’s exhausting. Have water bottles handy
- Near the beach, you have some benches around to sit and watch waters, people and boats. If you wish to go to mini-island, you can either rent a kayak or go on cruise trips
- Like humans, even waters have different colors. Some are welcoming. Trust me, you will lose yourself by immersing in the nature
- Hard part is, walking back up to the car. Well, you don’t have to hit the gym for that day
- Highlight: I took helicopter ride to view Lake Tahoe from mid-air. Lovely landscapes, water and nature. Worth trying.
- All beaches have plenty of water sports and other adventures to do. Choose based on your needs
HeliRide pics above.
Tahoe from my eyes, below.
- SFO City, CA
- Although I stayed right in the city, honestly, I didn’t get the kick of NYC. Believe me, New York City can fill life even in zombies.
- Took 2 day hop on hop off bus ticket. Perfect for tourism spots. You can always change your mind, and do whatever you want to. These buses offer all possible tourist spots that you can visit
- The benefit of taking Big Bus is you will get to know SFO city by end of the day
- Understand SFO city map, figure out what you want to see, and start your day
- There’s lot of walking, it’s better to have Sneakers or comfortable walking shoes
- Do check out the weather in SFO in advance. In August, it was in mid 50s and chilly. With high winds, weather became even cold. Packing warm wear as a backup would be a good idea
- SFO City – Alcatraz Trip
- Much awaited boat trip to Alcatraz jail
- After watching the movie “Alcatraz”, I always wished to know more about this infamous jail
- Checked out of TO-DO list
- Final day
- I was so desperate to go back to East Coast; desperate to go back to Connecticut ; desperate to be back home, my sweet home
- Hasta la vista, CA
- Hola, CT
Entire trip was very tiring but worth the spend.
Hope you too visit Cali soon. Happy Vacationing!